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Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump argued that the leaders of the Democratic Party are the “last institutionalists” amid the fallout of the Supreme Court’s historic reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Bump began his piece Monday by citing President Biden’s remarks about the ruling, urging Americans to vote since they ultimately have the “final word.”
“In other words, there was a system in place to resolve frustrations and that participation in the system was the way in which frustrations could be resolved,” Bump wrote. “The response to his speech was not effusive. For one thing, voters could be forgiven for remembering that they had, in fact, voted in support of candidates who would protect Roe: They’d done so in 2020 to elevate Biden to the presidency and to secure a Democrat-run House… For another thing, Biden and other Democratic leaders were seen as (or admitted to) being less outraged about the decision than their party’s base, particularly its younger arm.”
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Bump then turned to comments made by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who told reporters that packing the Supreme Court, which has become an increasingly popular stance among rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers, is “something that the president does not agree with.”
“She pointed to a commission that Biden had convened to consider how to potentially reshape the court… It fretted that changes to the court would erode the perceived legitimacy of the body… Public opinion polling, incidentally, shows that confidence in the court is at a historic low and that the decision to overturn Roe was seen as political. But hobbling forward with a damaged institution was seen as preferable or equal to changing it,” Bump wrote.
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He told readers, “This encapsulates how the leadership of the Democratic Party appears to view the current political moment. In part because its leaders have been on the job for so long — Biden has been in politics with limited interruption since 1973, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi since 1987 and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer since 1981 — they retain some obvious confidence that the system will work out its own kinks.”
Bump then pivoted to former President Trump and his allies, who he accused of having “repeatedly targeted the solidity of those same institutions,” claiming the right “exploits its loopholes” as the left is in favor of “demonstrating fealty to How Things Ought To Work.”
He insisted “institutional integrity” and the “norms of exercising power” were “always meaningless to Trump when he was elected to the White House as an outsider, “to his supporters’ glee but to the legitimate consternation of many tracking the stability of American democracy,” adding that Trump’s 2016 victory due to the electoral college is a “well-established issue in itself.” Democrats have been vocal about desires to eliminate the electoral college and have presidential elections solely determined by the popular vote.
The Post correspondent swiped then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of invoking the “because we can” principle to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and paved the way for Trump to fill the vacancy with Neil Gorsuch.
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Bump called out the Republican Majority for having “simply carved court nominations from the filibuster” in order to get Gorsuch confirmed but failed to mention that it was McConnell’s Democratic predecessor Harry Reid who first tampered with the filibuster in 2013 to process Obama’s judicial nominations.
He also knocked Trump and McConnell for rushing the Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett just weeks before the 2020 election, appearing to contradict McConnell’s rationale behind blocking Garland’s confirmation. McConnell argued in 2016 the Senate controlled by the opposite party of the White House does not have to confirm SCOTUS nominees in an election year, something also not mentioned by Bump.
“McConnell was shunted to the minority shortly before Biden took office, but the majority Democrats didn’t play similar hardball. This was in part because they were hobbled by two moderate members from their razor-thin majority who rejected any changes to the filibuster,” Bump wrote, swiping Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. “But it was also clearly in part because there was a real, entrenched belief that How Things Ought To Work is how things ought to work.”
Bump went on to draw a contrast between “younger Democrats” demanding immediate action while the old guard aims to preserve the institutions.
“The current generation of Democratic leaders grew up in a period in which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assertion that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice’ was seen as prescriptive. That if you simply press forward, enduring some setbacks, you’d eventually get to a better, more just place. They lived through a period in which that was often true,” Bump told readers. “Young people are less sanguine about such a pattern continuing, particularly as Republicans — concerned about long-term political patterns — work the loopholes so effectively.”
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He concluded the piece by quoting Javier Bardem’s villainous character Anton Chigurh from “No Country For Old Men” asking, “If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?”
“Increasingly, Democratic voters are unsatisfied with ‘because rules are important’ as a response,” Bump concluded.
Bump reiterated his thesis on Twitter, tweeting “Something I keep thinking about: the leaders of the political left are somehow now the most stalwart defenders of institutions — to the annoyance of their base,” adding, “The group most committed to maintaining the status quo of political institutions isn’t conservatives. It’s leaders of the Democratic Party.”